Frequently Asked Questions About Being a Big
Becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister is a commitment we don't expect you to take lightly. You probably have lots of questions about what's involved in being a Big and what you can expect at every step of the process. To help you to be as fully informed as possible about the amazing experience of being a Big Brother or Big Sister, we've assembled the following FAQs and their corresponding answers.
If you don't see an answer to a question you have, please call us at 513-867-1227.
The Basics: What it means to be a Big
A Big Brother or Big Sister is a volunteer who develops and nurtures a positive, supportive mentoring relationship with a child who is enrolled in one of our programs. A Big is an older, encouraging friend who helps the child realize their potential. A Big is not a substitute parent, tutor, or babysitter.
The Littles enrolled in our programs are between the ages of 6 and 14. They are boys and girls with diverse backgrounds and experiences who live in communities throughout Butler County. The majority of Littles face some adversity in their lives, including things like poverty, an incarcerated parent, or some form of abuse in their families. All Littles have amazing potential! Every Little and their family want the child to be a Little - no child is ever forced to be a Little Brother or Little Sister.
Our staff carefully matches Bigs and Littles based on many factors, including location, personalities, interests, and preferences. We want our Bigs and Littles to be compatible and for the relationship to have the best chance of blossoming. Read more below about how we make a match.
A Big Brother or Big Sister spends time with the Little Brother or Little Sister with whom they've been matched. In our Community-Based Program, this means getting together with your Little 2 to 4 times a month for a couple of hours at a time. In our Site-Based Program, it means spending time with your Little for 90 minutes once per week at their elementary school. In both types of programs, getting together with your Little and spending time with them means engaging in meaningful conversations in which you are encouraging the Little in pursuit of their goals, and sharing helpful life perspective with your Little. You also engage in activities that are fun and enjoyable for you both.
It's important to know that some applicants are disqualified from becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister for any of a number of reasons. These reasons may include criminal history, inability to commit to program requirements or guidelines, or other factors.
Each Big Brother or Big Sister is required to commit to at least one year - hopefully more! When a mentoring relationship lasts for at least one year, it has the most positive impact on the child. On the other hand, when a mentoring relationship lasts only a few months, it can negatively affect the child.
Any type of relationship requires dedication, consistency, and clear communication. It's no different between Bigs and Littles. With Big Brothers Big Sisters, our staff will check in with you and the child (separately) on a regular basis and provide any needed guidance and support.
There is no cost to you to apply or to go through the screening process to become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Once you are matched with a child, you are expected to engage in free or low-cost activities with your Little. Sometimes Bigs will take their Little out to dinner and pay for their meal, or take their Little to a movie and buy their ticket. But it is never required or even recommended that a Big buy things for their Little or to spend lots of money on activities. It's about having a supportive relationship where you encourage the child and help empower their potential; it's not about buying them things.
Bigs who volunteer in our Community-Based Program must be 18 years old or older. Bigs who volunteer in our Site-Based Program must be in 9th grade or older.
You do not need to have any particular level of education or special skills to be a Big. You just need to be able to form a positive, supportive relationship with a child, and to be able to communicate verbally with the child, their family, and with BBBS program staff.
It depends. Our highest priority is ensuring the safety of the children we serve, which means that there are certain crimes that automatically disqualify someone from serving as a Big. However, we approach each individual on a case-by-case basis. If you have a criminal history and are interested in being a Big, please contact us and we will discuss your eligibility privately.
All Bigs in our Community-Based Program must have an acceptable driving record and must be able to provide transportation for both themselves and their Little when they meet together. Bigs of driving age who volunteer in our Site-Based Program must be able to arrange transportation for themselves only (not the Little).
Application, Screening and Matching Process
All you need to do is get in touch with our office, which you can do in any of the following ways:
In addition to your personal information, you will be asked to provide references. Our Engagement Specialist will discuss with you the types of references we require. You will also be required to submit to a criminal background check (paid for by BBBS), and your driving record will be reviewed.
After the application steps are completed, we will schedule an interview where you'll meet face-to-face with one of our Enrollment Specialists. The purpose of this interview is to get to know you better as a person, to better understand your interest in volunteering as a Big, and to collect information about you that will help us to determine the right child to match you with. You will be asked personal questions during the interview, which are designed to elicit the information we need to make the best possible match. We will also require you to complete a training program, part of which is online.
When our Enrollment Team completes your interview and we've received all the information we need from your background check, driving record, and references, we will determine a potential match with a Little Brother or Little Sister. When we think we've found a good match, we will share non-identifying information about the child with you, and we'll also share non-identifying information about you with the child and his/her family.
After sharing that information, both you and the child and his/her family are able to approve or reject the potential match. If both you and the child and his/her family approve of the potential match, the match becomes "official." Our staff will then set up a "match meeting" where you will get to meet with the child and his/her family in their home. This meeting is facilitated by a BBBS staff member. At this point, you will be assigned a BBBS Match Support Specialist, who will provide ongoing support to you and to the child.
It depends on many factors. We always want our matches to succeed, which means we will take as much time as is needed in finding the best Big for each Little, and the best Little for each Big. In some cases, Bigs and Littles can be matched as quickly as one month from time of enrollment. Other times, it takes longer.
We make matches between Bigs and Littles based in part on location, personalities, interests, and cultural backgrounds. For example, we would be more likely to match an energetic, active child with a Big who is also energetic and active; and we would be more likely to match a child who lives in the Hamilton area with a Big who also lives in the Hamilton area. During the interview process, our Enrollment Specialist will ask many questions that will help us to get to know you and to determine the best match. If you indicate preferences for specific characteristics about a child (such as race, religion, or other characteristics), our staff will explore this with you in-depth.
At this point in time, we only make same-gender matches (girls are matched with older girls or women; boys are matched with older boys or men).
Yes. You are required to communicate directly with the child's parent/guardian regarding your planned activities with the child - when the activity will occur, what you will be doing, where you will be going, etc. Additionally, you are required to check in with your Match Support Specialist monthly during the first year of your match. The Match Support Specialists will also contact your Little Brother or Little Sister separately.
About Little Brothers and Little Sisters
Little Brothers and Little Sisters come from communities all across Butler County. They get involved with our program because they, their family, a school official, court personnel, or another professional has identified that having a mentor would be beneficial for the child. Most Littles are self-referred - meaning that they or their family wants them to have a mentor.
Littles can be as young as 6 and as old as 14 when they enroll in our programs. Once a Little is matched with a Big, they can stay matched until the Little turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes last.
There is no such thing as a typical Little. Every child has his/her own unique personality, characteristics, history, and challenges. Most of our Littles face adversity of some kind in their lives, which is what makes having an adult mentor so important and beneficial. For example, most Littles live in poverty, and often live in homes where there is one parent, or there is a grandparent or legal guardian caring for them. Many Littles have witnessed or experienced abuse of some kind, and many come from families that have been impacted by addiction. All Littles have tremendous potential are are deserving of the caring, supportive guidance of a Big.
Yes. The Little's parent or guardian applies to enroll their child in our program, and both the child and their family are interviewed. The child must be able to verbally communicate and to form a healthy relationship with an adult. Throughout the application and interview process, our Enrollment Team obtains a clear picture of the child's needs, personality, family dynamics, history, and other factors, so that we can find the best possible match for them. The child's parent or guardian must commit to supporting a match and to communicating regularly with our staff.
Our staff works very hard to set clear guidelines and expectations at the very beginning with Bigs, Littles, and Littles' families. It is natural for chidren who have experienced poverty or trauma to want the material things and experiences that they've not had or would make them feel good. It's important that every mentoring relationship has healthy boundaries, which is something our staff will help establish and maintain between you and your Little. You are never meant to be a babysitter or an ATM for your Little or their family. If you feel that your Little or his/her family are manipulating or taking advantage of you, bring it to the attention of your Match Support Specialist.
Positive relationships exist all the time in life between people who come from different walks of life. A Big is not a counselor or therapist. A Big's role is not to diagnose or fix anything about the child or their life. Spending time together and developing a friendship doesn't require the Big to have the same life experiences as the Little. In fact, having different experiences can help enrich the relationship for both! Plus, every relationship takes time to develop, which is part of why we require a commitment of at least one year.
Bring any and all concerns to the attention of your Match Support Specialist - it's their job to assess any concerns and to respond appropriately. Don't wait until a scheduled check-in with your Match Support Specialist. They are always available to support you.